Thursday, 3 August 2017

Diagnosis in limbo: don’t eLearn now! Use time #blogphilosophy

Where a month ago I felt strange becoming 50, right at the moment of turning fifty I heard that I had malignant cancer in one of my breasts, possibly both. Well, let’s just say I was no longer worried about age, but about life in general. At this point in time I am still in limbo on what the next steps are, but an answer is soon to come.

Learning is the highest of life achievements
In my family (all sides) learning is considered the highest form of living. I live, therefor I learn. Without learning life has no meaning. Or, at the end of your life, a human being is considered to have obtained new knowledge that can be taken to the realm beyond or simply has to be used in this life (depending on the view of what death is).
However, the learning which makes up life is mostly informal learning, as most of my family (including me) are not that well equipped to learn formally. However, since a few weeks I now know that informal learning is not always an option. This is why: as the first indications started to point to cancer, I did not know that the eventual plan of action to tackle the disease would take so much time. And time – to me – is mostly spend on learning anyway. So, after hearing the bad news, I referred to my natural plan of action: learn … learn online. But, for first time in my life, learning was not the best option. Not in this case. It turns out that cancer, even a specific cancer like breast cancer is treated in many different ways, has multiple possible outcomes and each person’s body reacts differently to the chosen operations. Reading up on the subject, just gave me too many options, unclarity and anxiety. So… any type of learning I have ahead of me now, will be experimental learning, and on a highly personal note. And it would not be learning to be prepared, but learning to cope.

Change is gonna come
No matter what happens next, it is inevitable that change is happening more rapidly than in ordinary life: possibly coping with a new body, with a new timeline, with a new condition. I learned from my diabetes that it does not make any sense to linger for the past. That is gone, but can be a happy part of the new me. I guess, this change is going to be even more manifest now. So, the only thing for me to do is to find out what I can do, to at least make this transition more rewarding. I am scared, scared that I will no longer be able to add to anything related to online learning. I will write some long overdue papers (distilled from my phd), but I feel weary on whether I will be able to add anything relevant. The time to read everything that is happening might be scarce. I do have a small plan, but not sure if I can realise it. Apart from online learning, what else is there?

No bucket list, but a bucket (well one single) idea: Time
Most people seem to have a bucket list, I searched for mine, but did not find it. So, there is no list of things I want to do… I seem to be more of a person who just does it, or simply does not come up with large projects and certainly nothing high risk.
So, I wondered whether I had a bucket idea? I actually have, what is explored so little, yet enough to make a comfortable complex idea to tamper with for (possibly) the next few months? Time, time itself, for time to me is not linear, which has always intrigued me. Maybe, this is a good time to focus on Time. I will have to gather more information on this: what is time, how much has been mathematically analysed for linearity, multiplicity, …

So, not sure what online activities I will keep doing. But I sure hope to have ample time to enjoy thinking… learning and thinking for the coming weeks or months.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Turning 50 hoping for cards or letters, will reply. Inge

This is the 1001 post I write on this blog. As it happens I am turning 50 in about two and a half weeks’ time (14 July – Bastille day when the French population stormed the Bastille as the start of the French revolution, as well as La Fête de la Fédération – where peace was celebrated one year later). After contemplating what I would like best … the only meaningful idea sticking to my mind, is to ask you for any type of Postal mail you might want to send me.
I would love to come over to all of you I have (virtually) met over the years, simply sit down, and have a real talk… but I do not have that type of money. Otherwise, yes, I would go on a talk-about combined with a walk-about.

So, to all my (virtual) friends, family, and colleagues… if you find the time, it would really be wonderful to receive a postcard or letter.
Inge de Waard
Sterrewijk 58
9880 Aalter
If you add your address, I will reply with postal mail in return.

The reasons I would like to receive postal mail are divers, so adding them for anyone who wonders.

Object traveling through physical space.
The reason I thought of this idea, is because a card or letter is an object, and you would have selected the paper or card, touched it, reflected… and put your selection of ideas, art or wisdom on to this to-be-posted-surprise. It would travel its own route, be passed on … until it reached my doorstep. So to me, it would feel like a handshake or a hug passed on through time and location to arrive and be given in order to tell me: you are 50, that’s okay.

50 seems rather strange.
I do not know where it came from… although I do have a lot of actions that I know I took. But, it feels like all of a sudden time is catching up on me and less options are available: no Olympic gold, less of a chance to become a celebrated neo-contemporary artist, no more thoughts on time being endless in this lifetime. I might be wrong cognitively, but it feels that way emotionally. I never had a limit on my potential (or the thoughts of my potential) like this before. I also really start to look old with grey hair and a beard increasingly appearing (yes, I come from old ancestors where all the women that grew old eventually had a beard… it is true, and part of a specific ancient Celtic region).

My life is mostly virtual, but I love cards and letters.
Although I feel most at home and at ease within virtual environments, I have this lifelong pleasure in sending cards and letters. There is something about it that I really like. Postcards are like time stamps… you see the buildings, the people, the dresses, even the timbre of the colors and you feel the time in which it has been made. Letters are personal, closed, more private, shared thoughts between individuals, close to the heart, with a potential to enter open hearted conversations on multiple subjects. Letters are what history is made off, the letters told historians what keeps us busy, what is going on, what type of people we are. They also have something tactile, they smell a particular way, the paper has a special texture… it is personal without an effort.

I suddenly feel I might know something.
This is also new, I might know something? Although admittedly, most is still far from known, but a bit, just a couple of things seem real. Or maybe they are only truths (truisms?) to me, maybe it is my mind playing tricks and just simply reassuring me that it all makes sense and at the end I will have learned a bit for sure. Let me share briefly, what I think I know by now:
  • All people are the same, but we do not all live in the same worlds.
  • Say yes, so opportunities can be lived (and trust your intuition). 
  • Technology is just part of life, some like it, some don't.
  • Take action early in life, early actions shorten the path to a personally satisfying life.
  • No woman is an island, adapted from John Donne.
  • I know little and it changes every day, but I learn.
It is the 1001 post … so immediately One Thousand and One Nights comes to mind, the set of folk tales gathered over centuries each originating from old and poetic civilizations (Persia, India, Arabia, Egypt, Mesopotamia…). Tales shaped by wisdom and fantasy to share amongst all of us, to exchange and recount those tales time and time again… I like that idea a lot.

The picture ‘all things are delicately interconnected’ is an interpreted, embroidered version of a Jenny Holzer Truism.

To end, a song I frequently play on my birthday: Aux Armes et Caetera by Serge Gainsbourg, the lyrics first, the song embedded thx to YouTube.

Allons enfant de la patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé

Aux armes et caetera

Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Egorger nos fils nos compagnes

Aux armes et caetera

Amour sacré de la patrie
Conduis soutiens nos bras vengeurs
Liberté liberté chérie
Combats avec tes défenseurs

Aux armes et caetera

Nous entrerons dans la carrière
Quand nos aînés n'y seront plus
Nous y trouverons leur poussière
Et la trace de leurs vertus

Aux armes et caetera

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Stephen Downes on a model of personal learning #learningtechday

STephen looks great while he takes the stage, and delivers an authentic, humorous talk with lots of ideas to reflect upon, while all the time simply sharing his experiences and thoughts. I must admit… I have a lot of speaking flow to learn.

Streaming life from see the full talk there.

A model is somethign that seems to always be a defined object, but research and life shows that the application of a model predetermines what comes out of a model. You practically determine what comes out at the other end… how well does this approach increase learning … the conclusion is built into the model. You always find what you are looking for and a model does just that.

If a model comes into play, i twill only be at the end of the journey. Stephen refers to old age, the moment where you have the idea that ‘I get it, finally!’.

What is missing in the standards based approaches and the models-based approaches is what we used tot hink of as BAD (Bricolage, Affordances and Distribution). Technology should be build for affordances… not predicting what people will do with that technology (Inge: think Iron Bridge approach).
A day in the life of Stephen…. Tech selections and purposes
Sharing what I do, looking for similarities and then having a laugh at what we do.
The tech we are introduced to, is the tech that we will absorb to use, that is the ‘real point of reference’.
( is used to filter out spam, but still a lot is still).
The starting page is an overview of all he does.
Using RSS feeds to get information from others (feedly).
Stephen does not care about too much information, but to make sure he is getting enough of a snapshot of the world. IN a sense the feeds are random, as they multiply as the information is written.
OPML is then shared by entering it into feedly.
From there, he selects (from the content he wants to have a closer look at. A searchable list.
Social media: twitter, linkedin (Microsoft acquired it, so now they might go to expensive learning quite quick – 30 dollars a month), (baseball)
Newer, distributed social networks Stephen currently uses: , and what works still  (inge: check out mastodon!)

Learning: (learned basic python on it) is great, you type a question into google on programming and you choose the stackoverflow page.

Learning through webinars: CIDER and

The harvest of these informations is saved on gRSShopper
Open coded, creating library (now database of others), 280.000 posts in the last 20 years… WOW! These focused posts drive you to be consize and brief.

Reflection of the talk
What has come out of all of that: the concept of the personal learning environment
No one actuallyhas been able to build it … yet.
The PLE connects to all the stuff you need or at least think is important.
The big question is: how do you pull this off?
This is completely distributed, not within one single online entity
Internet is capricious at this point in time, as things started frequently get deleted as well (in terms of software built by corporates)
Decisions to be made: what information should it record, who owns the data, how private, what should it do, what would a person do with it, where exactly is a PLE located?
So all of us should have a PLE.
So where do we connect with to do stuff with people.
There are millions of ways to connect with each other, but the network is currently broken as a lot of software cannot communicate with each other.
Properties of the network: how do people find each other? Services? How do they communicate? Is it secure? What do they share? How does a single PLE work with services? Do we need centralized registries?
We need to work decentralized for these PLE, as this will prevent total shutdown.

Why a personal learning environment?
What is the value proposition for a PLE?
Note: value is not what you can do, it is how you benefit
This is usually stated in financial terms (earn more, cost less)
Can also be stated in terms of quality: faster, bigger, better
And can be non-financial goods: satisfaction, happiness, memories… that is what is going to matter more than the financial benefits… but also different for all the people.

Education is not a search problem
It is not about finding, curating the best resources. Quality really matters only if you really did not want that learning resource anyway. If you are really engaged, you will make due with marks on a rock, … if it solves your problem…

Education is to a large extend a making problem - making (pictures), affordable because it is now in the cloud (for recording as well from radio or audio sources 😊 sharing documents, commenting…
Rebus community or open textbook library…
Movies: for this live stream on YouTube Stephen used  combining slides with video.

Sharing (from selected podcasts) for slides, sometimes combined with audio (also from this talk).

New learning paradigms
See carrie Paechter, metaphors of space in educational theory and practice
The original MOOC was a map, where the collective learners explore and map
Personalisation are currently: rules-based events, user models, adaptive learning… Stephen sees two approaches to this. Personalised learning is serendipitous, you do it for yourself, it is creating your own learning experience. The outcomes are not certification, but present inner network, your own persona, which manifests your interactions, experiences… extended cognition, including the network.

Friday, 9 June 2017

#oeb_midsummit Cognitive neuroscience and learning by @BekkeringHarold Bekkering reminds me of some of my Dutch family, funny feeling. Once he took the stage, it really was like listening to cousin Folkert.
Everything is connected in the brain, and the brain is a predictive machine.
A neuron at work is incoming data is output in just one unit. So in neuroscience we see that multiple inputs triggers a process into one output.
Hebbian learning: everything is connected (Hebb’ theory).
A human can adapt to one specific tone of voice and timbre. Our brain adjusts.
The brain is a prediction machine. Read Karl Friston and Andy Clark.
Distributed knowledge in the brain. Exteroceptive, autonomic (interoceptive), motoric (proprioceptive) given the conceptual multimodel representations. The brain tries to make the best things for you. It is a multimodal representations, which makes it of interest.
The whole brain is summed up in error correction.
E.g. you walk to a door (prediction is going through the door), but if a door is closed you adjust your action based upon the perception after the prediction.
Amal and Giraud, TICS 2012, beta and gamma power. The brain is only active when you make errors. Only after making an error your model is updated [interesting].
We learn more from negative feedback. Oh no! 😃
Creating a safe environment to learn from errors.
Social learning: humans are by nature social, homo imitans.
Dunbar (1998) The social Cortex, it is big because we have huge networks. The Dunbar’s number.
Social learning is needed due to the brain needing to be matured over time (baby to adult).
Good tip for learning: saying: hi (insert name) and then say the action. The brain does not ignore the calling of a name to become active.
Mirror neurons: have revolutionised neuroscience. Motorcortex was investigated, and in the lab, monkeys mimicked humans picking up peanuts. There are cells that only get active if we see someone else moving. Your brain cannot help to observe and react.
Learning analytics: extracting data, predicting data, … data driven education.
It is not useful to only learn in one learning style is the real point of interest, if you want to really learn the best thing to do is to use all styles for learning.  
Lessons for online learning
Hebbian learning: be careful with what you offer
Predictive learning: structure and provoking errors (job aids similar)
Social learning